In the developed world, we are accustomed to not thinking about what happens after we flush the toilet. In the developing world, “out of sight, out of mind” is an unheard-of phrase; if a toilet exists to be flushed, the resulting effluent often ends up untreated in the local bodies of water. Simple fix, right? Just install a sewage treatment plant and open sewage disappears.
Not exactly. For one thing, sewage treatment plants are not free; they require large capital investments that governments of developing countries are typically not in a position to make. For another, treatment plants require user fees, which we know in the form of our monthly sanitation bill. Such a system of user support is unfeasible in developing countries, where even the postal service is not a guarantee. Treatment plants have been built through philanthropic efforts, but once funding for ongoing operations dries up, so does the waste. As a result, sewage flows freely, untreated and without boundary.
The people at Waste Enterprisers are revisioning sewage, not only its treatment, but more importantly, its economic potential. Conventional wisdom sees sewage as a cost, not as a revenue-generating opportunity. Waste Enterprisers are capitalizing on the energy potential inherent in human waste, developing industrial fuel solutions from an undesirable and diease-spreading byproduct of human life. These fuels, such as biodiesel and coal substitutes, are clean, carbon-neutral alternatives to fossil fuels that benefit people on every level: removing waste from the environment, offering employment in processing the waste into fuel, selling the fuel for profit, and using clean fuel to power other enterprises. Waste, instead of being a costly problem, becomes an incredible opportunity for economic and health development. Since when has poop done so much for you?